What Goes On in Medical School?

HT: MM

It’s probably nothing. But the latest in-your-face conservative pick by President Trump adds one more leg to the stool. Is there some reason why so many prominent radical creationists are medical doctors?

mark green

Creating a modern military….

Tennessee Senator Mark Green is only the latest. He is awaiting confirmation hearings to become Secretary of the Army. He’s already taking some heat for his official proclamations about gender and sexuality. In 2015, he delivered a fiery creationist sermon to a Cincinnati church.

For those of us who keep track of such things, Senator Green apparently emphasized two favorite notions of twenty-first century creationists. He insisted that the second law of thermodynamics militated against evolution. Since entropy increases over time, the argument goes, things won’t get more organized over time, but less.

As Green put it,

If you put a lawn mower out in your yard and a hundred years come back, it’s rusted and falling apart. You can’t put parts out there and a hundred years later it’s gonna come back together. That is a violation of a law of thermodynamics. A physical law that exists in the universe.

Green also embraced the “irreducible complexity” argument beloved by today’s intelligent designers. As articulated by biochemist Michael Behe, this argument points to some organic systems such as blood-clotting. If the entire process needs to be in place in order to confer any evolutionary benefit, the argument goes (roughly), then it makes no sense for it to have evolved in pieces.

We don’t want to argue the merits of these creationist arguments here. Our question this morning is different. In his 2015 Cincinnati sermon, Senator Green claimed to be an expert about the scientific weaknesses of evolutionary theory. On what grounds? Because of his work and training as a medical doctor.

It’s not much to go on, but there certainly seems to be a mini-trend involved here. Senator Green joins other prominent doctor/creationists in politics. Most obviously, Secretary Ben Carson rose to prominence as a young-earth creationist and pediatric neurosurgeon. Representative Paul Broun of Georgia, too, headed the House science committee, hated evolution, and claimed that his “scientific” education as a medical doctor had convinced him of the weaknesses of evolutionary science.

What is going on here? One might think that medical training would weed out creationist thinking. Most medical doctors, after all, study lots of biology. And, as the man said, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

Again, our sample of only three prominent doctor/creationists isn’t large enough to prove anything, but it does raise the question. Why do so many of our prominent creationists come from the field of medicine?

One answer would seem to be that medical doctors can claim the prestige of science without actually doing any pure scientific research themselves. They can claim to be experts, but they really are more interested in the mechanics of biology than the driving processes.

As anthropologist David Long found in his study of undergrad bio majors, it is very easy to study biology and remain a committed young-earth creationist.

Clearly, as the case of Senator Green reminds us, simply learning more biology will not convince people out of their creationist beliefs. Just like other prominent doctor/creationists, Dr. Green’s creationism is something besides a lack of knowledge about mainstream science.

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4 Comments

  1. I’m glad you brought up medical doctors and their propensity to be creationists. It’s long been recognized that creationists are often engineers but I think there as many medical doctors that are influential in YEC circles. Doctors often view the body as machines just as engineers view a bridge as a problem to solve. Neither of them tend to have any training in historical sciences and, dare I say, neither tend to have any experience actually doing science. Its about applying science as a technology. I’ve been part of several biology departments and have seen a lot of pre-med students. Many are able to go through a whole program and have had no more than a few lectures about evolutionary theory. Some might have a course of evolution but rarely learn much in these classes. There are so many students that go to medical school that would not be able to define what natural selection is and retain many strong misconceptions. This includes even students that are predisposed to view evolutionary biology favorably.

    Reply
    • This is all very accurate, but there is more to it that has to do with the psychology of fundamentalism. It caught my attention that multiple doctors over 20-30 years in a very fundamentalist community I’ve lived in have been well known for agitating for decades against homosexuality as a disease, evolution as a lie, and generally freaking out about teenage girls’ dress, access to birth control, etc. Maybe this has something to do with the influence of James Dobson and other Evangelical culture warriors who touch on biological issues, but I would guess it’s more basic than that.

      Imagine the plight of men who see much of their community in its skivvies (or less), or who who see the brute material facts of life and death, blood and guts where miraculous healing does not happen. (Of course every possible miracle recovery will be seized on as proof of God’s providential care, but this just adds freight to the pain and doubts of everyone who loses a child, or suffers any tragedy.)

      Maybe men raised in repressive environments where sexual thoughts of any kind are considered sins are best understood as stressed human beings who are trying to function within the categories of clashing medieval and modern mentalities, as a matter of fidelity to their communities. That is how they see it, at any rate. What sexuality and evolution have in common to people who freak out about them is they are messy, seemingly random, unguided, and naturally prone to a wide range of outcomes where it has always been difficult to define normalcy and health, deviance and disease. Things have changed a lot in a short time, and people raised to believe in black and white moral and metaphysical certainties cannot cope with the sudden apparent “relativism” or abandonment of “objective values.”

      Hopefully the biology majors are more curable. Probably they will clear up their creationism if they become practitioners of some sort who have to work with others in a context of peer reviewed research and so forth. Pediatricians and other doctors are a different story.

      Reply
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